John | Point England

“I came from the Cook Islands. I came here when I was about 14 years old, and I lived in Otara for nearly all my life.

In 1990 I moved to Panmure, and I was an alcoholic. I was a drinker, I started drinking when I was about 20, I was drinking 24/7. I smoked. I wasn’t involved in gangs. I wasn’t involved in drugs, I was just a drinker of alcohol. Not abusive, nothing; just drank, woke up in the morning and drank. I moved away from around here, and then I came back about a year ago. Everything was different.

When I came back I saw people walking around with cans in their hands 24/7. Young kids walking around with cans, kids around about 14-15, walking around the shops with cans of beers. You know we didn’t see that in the ‘90s and the’80s. Everything’s just changed now. I feel sorry for the community, and I feel sorry for the older people my age and older because what’s happening around here with alcohol all over the place and with drugs going around, and young kids I feel sorry for the older people my age and the community. [We] need a community, like a whānau thing, where the old people get together and then we talk about how we’re going to solve this problem. I’ve been around to some of the groups, organisations, but most of them just don’t work at all. Every time I put my idea of how are we going to sort out the problem, they just say, or they think I’m just thinking about myself, or there is nothing going on. I can see there is something going on around the place, especially in this area.

One day, when I was drinking, I was watching a program about this alcoholic lady. She was really disgusting, and the next minute when I looked at the face of my grandchildren I said to myself, am I going to be [around], they’re growing up and I’d like to see them when they grow up. When I looked at them I said [to myself], with all my drinking and smoking I thought, oh no I have to stop this. I had to look forward for my grandkids, for my kids. I want to see them get married. I want to see them have a family of their own. I want to see my grandkids. I’m only 60 now, but I’m sure I’ve got another 20 years to go so I can see my kids. It brought me to tears when I thought about it. They said you need the will power to give up smoking and things, but me when my tears start coming out I said to myself I had to stop this. I had to start thinking. So I did. I gave up drinking about 10 years ago and I gave up smoking about two years ago. What really inspires me now, how I feel now I mean, all those years I’ve been drinking and smoking, and I ended up in the hospital [because of] my alcohol. I thought about giving up smoking and drinking, instead of giving up about 20 years ago, or about 10 years ago, but now I thought of the right thing, and then I said to myself, oh yeah. Now I feel a lot better and I think I can reach my goal, as I’m sure I can get see my kids. They’re getting married and having a family themselves. I wish I can live another life you know, which I can.

I’m really trying because now I feel like I’m born again. A life with no drinking and no smoking, and I have more money in my pocket. I’m pretty sure I can sprint one of these young fellas. I asked some of the young people if they’d like to follow how I did it. I feel strong now, like I can outrun anybody, you know? With alcohol and the abuse of alcohol I really feel sorry for the young ones now. Even with my kids, my two boys, they smoked and drank, but I kept telling them, but not abusive though. I’m glad that I’ve given up this drinking and smoking. Around this area, in the ‘80s, they said that Otara was bad but over here now its gone worse. I think Otara is getting better than Glen Innes now, with the abuse, with the alcoholics walking around with cans of beer, and the kids don’t even go to school. I’ve seen them around the area, in the parks, drinking and misbehaving.”

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